Lobby Day Follow-Up: A Cautionary Tale

This post is dedicated to all citizens who visit their lawmakers annually, every Lobby Day, whether it’s needed or not.

It was one of my first days on the new job.

“Hello Senator …………., my name is Lisa Arnold. I am calling on behalf of …………. to inquire if you are interested in meeting with- ”

“You  #$%&holes! You $!&#ers! No! I’m not interested! How dare you &*#$!*ers even call me, you jack*#$%es! I hear from your group once a  year! Once a **&%$ ing year! And every year, you guys slam me in the press because I oppose your issue!

“Did it ever occur to you %%$!*&ers that the majority of my constituents also oppose you and your #$%& proposal? You'd better believe that their spokespeople are in my office on a regular basis, urging me to fight it! Where are you guys the other 364 days of the %!@* year, huh? And why should I support you over the people who bother to show up more than once a year?”

This is how I remember a phone conversation I had with a lawmaker some years ago.

Here’s some of what I took away from that exchange:
  • You can look benevolent and avuncular for the camera and still have a potty mouth.
  • You can show up at your elected official’s office once a year, but it might not be enough.      


Lobby Day Follow-Up: Don't Fall Off Your Legislators' Radar

Perhaps your organization has organized a lobby day to promote its policy agenda. Now you are wondering how to help legislators remember your organization and your lobby day meeting, since about a million other interest groups are also meeting with the same legislators about their issues.
Valentine’s Day is a good opportunity to refresh their memories. Here’s how:
          Deliver heart-shaped valentines – that can be worn on a lapel - to deserving legislators and their staffs. Some how-to’s:

o   Valentines can be hand-made (i.e. with cardboard or felt and tape or pins).
o   Valentines are especially charming if they are made by children.
o   Messages can say things like, “People for Pandas thanks Sen. Smith for ...” 
o   Do make valentines big enough so that it’s easy to tell what the recipient is wearing from a couple of feet away.

If you are able to personally present the valentine to a legislator, take a picture of the big moment, and

o   Send a couple of the pictures and a short press release to your community papers.
o   Post a couple of the pictures on your website.
o   Send the pictures and link to your website to legislators, as appropriate.
 If you are not able to personally present your messages to legislators, you can send or drop them off,  along with a note requesting that the legislator-recipient wear the valentine.


What Smart Citizen-Lobbyists Will Be Wearing To Lobby Day

Your organization is getting ready to go to Olympia. You want to make sure that legislators know that it is your organization’s members dominating the Capitol Campus on Lobby Day. You could order 500 t-shirts – again. And again, after Lobby Day, you will probably wind up with a couple hundred extra larges and extra smalls …

For some groups, at least, buttons are better and stickers are superior. Here's why:
  •  They are a lot cheaper than t-shirts. 
  • One size “fits” all.
  • It’s easy to transfer them from raincoat to sweater and back. Whether you are outside or in, you will always be able to educate and inform.
  • They can “double” the size of your group. (Here’s how: During lunchtime, grab a couple of the more extroverted members of your group, a bag of extra buttons, and visit the cafeteria. Here you will find a lot of people with nowhere to go and nothing to do. Assign one section of the cafeteria to each person in your mini-group. If you guys hurry, you can inspire hundreds of diners to wear a button in solidarity with your group.)

Here are my secrets to successfully using buttons and stickers.
  • It’s best if your group’s members wear one button/sticker on their front sides, and one on  their back sides. This way, people will see your message whether you all are coming or going.
  • Make sure the buttons/stickers are large enough so that people can identify your group from a distance, say a couple hundred feet.
  • Make sure people can read your group’s name and message from a distance – for instance, in a hearing room, the distance from your seat to where your senator is sitting.
  • Be prepared to accommodate people unwilling to wear a pin or sticker. Have a hole punch and string at the ready so that you can transform stickers and pins into lanyards. 
  • Carry/wear extra buttons, pins, and stickers so that you can share them with lawmakers, their staffs, and other potential supporters.
Two more thoughts: Made-in-the-U.S.A.  Union.